The story of a mother and her infant son plucked from raging flood waters after an inflatable rescue raft capsized took a turn Tuesday, with a firefighter blaming the woman for the accident.
Television footage showed Erica Henderson struggling to keep her 8-week-old son’s tiny head above water as the two were swept down San Dimas Creek after the raft, piloted by a firefighter, flipped in the roiling water on Monday.
Henderson, with her son, William, strapped to her chest in a baby carrier, washed up on a sandbar within minutes and was pulled from the creek by members of Los Angeles County’s swift-water rescue team.
Neither was seriously injured. They were recovering Tuesday at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center.
Henderson said on “Good Morning America” early Tuesday that at one point she feared her son was dead and tried to resuscitate him as they were dragged downstream.
“The last time we hit the embankment, the force was so bad I knew he swallowed water,” Henderson said. “I thought I was going to lose him.”
But Henderson canceled a news conference after a member of the swift-water rescue team said Henderson and her husband had hampered the rescue. The husband’s name wasn’t immediately available.
Larry Collins, coordinator of the swift-water rescue team, told KNBC-TV Channel 4 that the baby’s father was “verbally and physically violent” and physically assaulted two firefighters. The couple, who live in a cabin in San Dimas Canyon, had called 911 and were waiting on the river bank when firefighters arrived.
“We had uncooperative parents that we’ve had to deal with before,” Collins told the station. “The children needed to be taken out of there.”
Collins said Henderson eventually agreed to leave the cabin, but only if she could hold her baby herself. But he said Henderson caused the raft to flip because she “was uncooperative to start with ... and she wasn’t following instructions.”
Henderson’s husband, who was supposed to take a second raft, decided to remain in the cabin with the couple’s 2-year-old daughter after seeing what had happened to his wife, according to television reports.
Capt. Mark Savage, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said Collins should not have made the comments about Henderson and her husband. “Yes, they might have been [uncooperative], but we don’t need to be going public with that aspect. We’re not going down that road any further.”